- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

Nicaragua's new president, Enrique Bolanos, struggled during a visit to Washington yesterday to promote his anti-corruption agenda, only a day after his predecessor, Arnoldo Aleman, was charged with fraud.

Mr. Bolanos, who served as Mr. Aleman's vice president for five years, declined to comment on the charge of misuse of $1.3 million in state funds. He said that Nicaragua was a republic and that he was trying to be "respectful" of the separation of powers.

"Whether he is innocent or guilty is a matter that belongs to the judicial system," Mr. Bolanos told reporters at the National Press Club.

He also spared the details of his plan to fight corruption but said that "there are already people in jail" as a result of the crackdown that began when he took office in January.

Mr. Aleman was charged by Nicaragua's attorney general on Thursday. Because he holds the post of president of the country's congress, he is protected from prosecution.

The ex-president has denied wrongdoing, saying he gave key advisers control over an ill-fated television deal.

Special prosecutor Alberto Novoa said Mr. Aleman took part in a "plan to defraud the government of Nicaragua."

The accusation is based on a contract between Nicaragua's Channel 6 and a Panamanian company, Servicios Integrales Casco, which represented Mexico's TV Azteca.

The October deal was supposed to allow Channel 6 to broadcast Azteca programming in Nicaragua, but it was apparently signed without a bid process.

Prosecutors say Nicaraguan officials made payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars through hand-delivered checks made out to companies other than Casco.

Mr. Bolanos, who won the November election against former president and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega with 56 percent of the vote, vowed yesterday that corruption and poverty will be his administration's "enemies."

He also said funds for education top his spending priorities because "education is the backbone of development."

A free trade agreement with the United States is among his economic and foreign policy goals, and he said he hopes to sign an accord within three years.

During his unofficial visit to the United States, Mr. Bolanos and his delegation also visited Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where they learned of the latest developments in information technology.

Mr. Bolanos said he wants to provide "all citizens" of Nicaragua with "access to information" about the work of his government.

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